Orlando Chowdown - July 27 at Nile Ethiopian Restaurant
So we have a small group together looking to do our first Orlando area Chowdown. We surprisingly drew little interest in the Sticky thread. These groups thrive in Miami, Tampa and Naples, c'mon Orlando posters, let's kickstart this culinary scene.
The proposed place and time in Nile Ethiopian Restaurant on International Drive on Tuesday July 27th. The place has seen a few positive reviews on Chowhound and it is a good "social" food excellent for sharing and discovering new flavors. We're aiming for around 7:30. Details will follow once we get a solid group committed.
Here's the link to the restaurant: www.nile07.com
and here's the link to our Google Group where we'll discuss options and meet-ups and contact info since Chowhound doesn't want that stuff on the board.
Any others interested?
Well, we had a small but fun group together for our first Orlando Chowdown last night at Nile Ethiopian. The food was great, and we came away already planning the next one.
Dining on that end of I-Drive is always interesting location-wise. Nile is in a half-abandoned strip mall behind a Pizza Hut and Buffalo Wild Wings in between a quickie storefront wedding chapel and an Irish pub. (For those who remember, it's next to the old Brazilian rodizio Crazy Grill - mmmm, chicken hearts on a stick)
The dining room is actually themed quite well, with a series of tables and a bar with a TV showing traditional Ethiopian dancing on one side and a more traditional setting on the other side for what I would guess are for enjoying coffee and entertainment. The tables were pretty full for a Tuesday.
We started the meal with Ethiopian beer and wine - the wines were different and they allowed us to sample them to find one we liked - they all were on the sweeter side.
After discussing it with the pleasant server, we decided to be served family style which allowed us to sample the broadest selection of the menu since all but one of us were Ethiopian food virgins.
So the most important thing to discuss is the bread. The bread is your utensil - similar to Arabic mezza, you use the bread to scoop the various foods with your hands. But the bread is strange - strange and good. I'd heard it described as spongy, but really, it is literally texturally like eating with a rolled up sponge. But the flavor is nice and the sponge-like texture is important as it soaks up all the flavorful sauces around the food - no wayward dripping like a burrito.
The family platter came out on this beautiful, large round platter with a giant piece of sponge-bread across the bottom and the food arrayed on it in mounds. We were given baskets of the bread and we all dug in - good thing no prudes in the group as we were relative strangers and this is a style of eating that requires comfort with folks sticking theirs hands (albeit covered with bread) into shared food. Worked for me though!
I'll look to the rest of the group to keep me honest, but I believe the items featured on the family platter were Beef Key Wat (spicy cubed beef), Beel Alicha (mild herbed cubed beef), Zilbo (beef with collard greens), Doro Wat (shredded spicy chicken with a hard boiled egg), Yebeg Tibs (spiced cubed lamb) and a series of vegetarian options like Kik Alicha (split peas), Mesir Wat (red lentils), Gomen (collard greens), and Tikil Gomen (cabbage). There were also salads on the plate as well.
The portions were not huge but we did get a great sampling of the menu. My personal favs were the Doro Wat, Yebeg Tibs and Mesir Wat. We finished the platter and decided we were still a little hungry, so we ordered Beef Sambusas and split them as well as an entree of the Yebeg Tibs. The server also gave us an order of the lentil sambusas gratis to try.
A quick rundown of the flavors. I found the food spicy-flavorful but not spicy-hot. I'm not a big veggie eater, but I think I enjoyed the vegetarian options as much as the meat. The sambusas looked burned when they came out but the flavors were spot on and I wish we could have had a few more of them.
One funny aside - we told the server once we finished the family platter to take it away for our sambusa and entree order. She hesitated, but then told us we were missing the best part - the sponge bread that lay underneath the whole family platter had soaked up all the various juices and spices from the dishes on it, and we were supposed to tear into that and eat it up. I'm glad she said something as not only was it great on its own, but using it to eat the lamb entree that came after added a whole new complexity to the flavors.
We finished up with the traditional coffee service and a shared baklava. They roast the coffee in a pan and bring it around to the tables to share the aromas. It is super-strong and served in tiny cups like Turkish or Artabic coffee. I enjoyed it but needed a little sugar to smooth it out some. In the end, it was a 3 hour meal with all of our conversations. Price came to about $35 a head plus tip with two drinks per person.
All in all, it was a great start to the Orlando Chowdown events, and left us excited to meet new like-minded friends and ready to tackle something new in August. Hope more folks can make it then.
If you are interested in joining the Google Group where we plan these things please follow the link above.
I'm also interested to hear from the rest of the group as I tend to be an easy judge.
Thanks for the great review...It's Thursday now and I can still remember the flavors, especially the lamb, from Tuesday night...you mentioned everything on the platter except for the string beans. Next time I want to roll the bread around the leftover bits and see what we come up with. I think the family style meal added to the experience...it wouldn't have been the same if we hadn't shared...our food and our stories. A truly memorable night. Thank you new friends!
I'd also like to thank Sam for that write up. He covered everything. I agree that the bread was the most unique part of the meal. In addition to its texture, it had a very distinct almost sour flavor to it. The presentation of the meal reminded me a lot of south Indian cooking, where you receive an assortment of vegetarian items like lentils and rice in curry sauce (curry might not be the exact word I'm looking for here, but you get the picture...) all placed on a banana leaf. Here you eat with the bread and its not at all vegetarian, whereas in India you'd eat with your hands.
Just as Sam said, the food was spicy flavorful. There was not much heat at all. Overall it was wonderful, and we finished everything.
Thanks to three of you who came out. Good food, good beer, and good conversation= a great night out. I look forward till next month.
This isn't the first Orlando Chowdown. I tried putting one together a couple of years ago at TRP and only one other hound showed up. I did get a few dozen "darn I wish I could attend but..... " emails though. Even after announcing the date and time a couple of months in advance, there just wasn't enough interest in trying again.
Your mileage may very. Good luck.